Friday, November 21, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Rutgers University’s Student Volunteer Council

A couple weekends ago, SBP in New Jersey had the pleasure of welcoming Rutgers University’s (New Brunswick campus) Student Volunteer Council. Many of the students in the group grew up in New Jersey and many members of the Rutgers community was impacted by Hurricane Sandy, which helped influence their decision in volunteering with us. 

One of the volunteers explains how “Sandy Relief is one of [their] most popular and successful services because of the lasting memories of what Sandy did. Sea Bright was a perfect choice for [them] because it allowed [their] group to easily and effectively volunteer to make an impact on restoration.” Sixteen members came in early Saturday morning to complete task, such as putting up drywall and applying Spackle in one of the homes. 

Despite the weather being cold and windier than they expected it to be they worked hard throughout the day to get the job done with the help of their site supervisor, Koffi Ayi. “I think what made our volunteer experience so great was really our site leader. He was very determined to give our volunteers a meaningful experience, and was really a pleasure to be around,” says one of the student volunteers. 

Most of the members agreed that what made this experience unique was that their site leader truly allowed for them to get the most out of their experience. A piece of advice Rutgers University Student Volunteer Council has for future volunteers is to “plan out everything ahead and maybe research about what you will be doing.” 

Thanks for all your hard work Rutgers University Student Volunteer Council -- we hope to see you out here again soon!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Mormon Helping Hands

This past month, SBP/Friends of Rockaway was pleased to work with members of the Mormon Helping Hands (MHH) group of Utah and California. Like many of our volunteer groups, MHH learned of SBP/FoR through word of mouth. Friends of theirs who had worked with FoR told them about the great service opportunities in Rockaway, so the members of MHH were excited to join our mission. As missionaries stationed in the New York area for the next few months, the volunteers are looking forward to helping rebuild their newly adopted community as they spread their spiritual message.

The Mormon Helping Hands team has tackled a number of construction jobs during its time in the Rockaways. According to group member Elder Tannen Bills, they have “tiled, painted, put in floors and siding, mudded, broken cement, hung drywall, and sanded!” Volunteers enjoyed working with SBP/FoR for its unique approach to the service experience. They lauded our organization for its “professional feel,” the “personal aspect that allows you to talk about what you’re actually doing,” and the fact that there is “always something to do!”

As for their favorite parts of the service opportunity, MHH volunteers appreciated that they got to “get down and dirty,” “work with [their] hands,” “help in general,” and “meet new people.” One group member added “sledgehammers are fun” and “causing [helpful] destruction” to the list of enjoyable volunteer activities. The team advises future volunteers to “bring water...and a spray bottle” and to “learn as much as you can -- mudding isn’t as hard as you think!”

Thanks so much for your hard work, Mormon Helping Hands -- we look forward to working with you all over the coming months!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: One Brick

The St. Bernard Project was grateful to have representatives from 10 One Brick chapters join us in service this past week. Volunteers traveled from all corners of the United States, representing California, Virginia, Texas, Washington, North Carolina, Minnesota, New York, Michigan, Massachusetts and Illinois.

One volunteer said, “One Brick has been coming to New Orleans since 2007 and we love working
with SBP. Your organization is helping people that have been through a tough experience and deserve to have a place to call home."

Volunteers got their hands dirty on site while cutting and installing baseboards, window trim and hardy board. They also did a ton of caulking and painting and helped to install doors and door knobs.They would give this advice to future volunteers, “Don’t be afraid if you do not have any construction experience – SBP is great at showing you what to do.  Have fun and truly embrace the experience.”

When asked what makes working with the St. Bernard Project special they responded, “Working with SBP is a unique experience because it has been 9 years since Katrina hit New Orleans and there are so many people that have been forgotten by most, but still need help.“

Friday, October 31, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Farmers Insurance Women’s Network

SBP in New Jersey recently had the pleasure of working with Farmers Insurance Women's Network. Farmers Insurance has been a partner to the St. Bernard Project for a long time and has been sending up to five of their employees every week to help with our rebuilding efforts in New Jersey. This dedication to service ties into one of Farmer’s core philanthropic pillars - community involvement.

Last week, the group brought 26 of their members from as far West as Chicago and as South as Virginia to help work on several homes in Monmouth County, New Jersey. They completed various construction tasks, including: hanging drywall; mudding; installing floors; installing window trim; painting; and the "dreaded sanding!" 

Many of the members mentioned how this experience allowed them to grow. They advise anyone reluctant to volunteer with us to "get out of their comfort zone” because working with SBP “does the soul good." These individuals put emphasis on taking the opportunity to give back any chance you can get. Volunteering with SBP in New Jersey was a unique experience for Farmers Insurance Women's Network because they felt as though they had "ownership in making a change." 

One of the members said, "People just want their names on a project. Here there was no micromanaging and were able to learn as we worked through our tasks." Through volunteering with SBP in New Jersey, Farmers Insurance members were able to be a presence in the community as examples of the importance of service.

Thanks for all your hard work Farmers Insurance Women’s Network -- we hope to see you out here in New Jersey again soon!

Volunteer Spotlight: Cayuga Presbytery- Syracuse & Young Adult Volunteers PC (USA) of Little Rock, AR

Both the Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery: Southern Comfort Mission and Ministry Team of Syracuse, NY and the Young Adult Volunteers PC (USA) group of Little Rock, AR recently joined us for a week of service in the Rockaways. They served as ambassadors of the nationally-based Presbyterian Disaster Assistance group, whose volunteer village at the First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica (in Jamaica, Queens) has partnered with Friends of Rockaway and SBP. Members of both teams had previously volunteered in post-Katrina New Orleans, so they were excited to extend that service to the NYC region this past month.


During their time rebuilding, the groups engaged in various construction tasks, including sanding, painting, drywalling, and framing. The Southern Comfort Mission and Young Adult Volunteer teams agreed that the opportunity to serve was the best part of their volunteer experience. The highlight of the week, however, was their daily sharing of espresso and cookies with the homeowners, the Giuliano family. Group members had some important advice for future volunteers: “Be flexible, work with [the Site Supervisors] Don and Jeremiah, and do what Don says!”    


Thanks so much for your hard work, Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery and Young Adult Volunteers -- we look forward to working with your groups again. Feel free to come back for the service and to stay for the espresso!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Volunteer Spot Light: Gladeville Baptist Church, Tennessee

Friends of Rockaway has recently had the pleasure of working with members of the Gladeville Baptist Church from Nashville, Tennessee. Congregants at the Glade Church have been volunteering in New Orleans, Louisiana since 2005; after eight years and 30+ mission trips spent restoring the NOLA community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, members of the church heard about Superstorm Sandy and felt called by God to help rebuild NYC, too. They aligned themselves with a group they thought was well-equipped to bring families home, and thus have been serving with SBP/FoR over the past few months.


This October, the group worked on several homes in the Rockaways and completed various construction tasks, including: hanging drywall, cleaning, mudding, putting up insulation, “destroying a bathroom” and “sanding...times a million!” Some of the volunteers’ favorite parts of their service experience were “talking to homeowners,” “ripping the ceiling” and “destroying the bathroom!” Members of the Glade Church offered some helpful advice for future volunteers -- they suggest people “do it right the first time/follow instructions,” exercise “patience and flexibility,” and “hold their temper and stay energetic!”  


Thanks for all your hard work this past week, Glade Church -- we hope to see you out here in the Rockaways again soon!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Ursuline Academy, Brazil


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The St. Bernard Project recently welcomed eight international high school students to New Orleans. These students are traveling from Ilheus, Brazil, located on the South Atlantic shore. Their school, named Colegio Nossa Senhora da Piedade, is part of a larger association of Roman Catholic education institutions. With schools worldwide, Ursuline students are encouraged to be global citizens. We have been lucky enough to have other groups from Ursuline schools in London,and locally, join us in service during past years.


The students are touring major US cities, their last stop being St. Louis Missouri, where they served at an elementary school in an underserved community. There, they taught other youths about art and helped out with projects at the school. When deciding to spend time in Louisiana, trip organizers from the Brazil school reached out to their sister school here in NOLA looking for a place to conduct a service project. Sister Regina Marie (pictured far right), a previous staff member at the New Orleans Ursuline Academy is a long-time supporter of SBP and sent them our way.



This group of students and chaperones spent two days rebuilding Ms. Elaine’s Katrina damaged home. As this house is entering its final stages of construction, students performed a variety of tasks including: painting interior doors, trim and the exterior of the house. The students came to a mutual agreement that their favorite task on site was caulking, to which their site supervisor, Bridgett, praised them: “It took me two months to learn how to caulk properly, and these guys are practically pros on their first try!” she beamed.


When asked what they would tell future volunteers, a young woman spoke out saying, they should volunteer because it’s an incredible experience and continued to elaborate on the impact she feels helping somebody who lost their home. Another student simply said “rewarding” upon which everyone else agreed. Finally, a chaperone and mentor to the group left the group thinking when she said, “These people lost their homes, and you are giving it back to them with your time and service.” And when asked how it felt to do just this, the group responded saying, “It feels good.”


The students also spoke out passionately about SERVIAM, their school motto, which translates into “I will serve.” This goes to show that everyone, no matter how far from home they are, is hardwired to help.


Thanks for all your hard work Ursuline Academy -- we look forward to future trips!


To volunteer with the St. Bernard Project visit: http://www.stbernardproject.org/get-involved/volunteer/

Written by: Rachel Emerson